Two more awards before the Sandman goes into that good night
by rick olivares
Last Monday, November 4, Mariano Rivera, who had already retired from Major League Baseball following the end of the New York Yankees’ season, was given two more trophies that make for a sweet bookend in an incredible career.
Rivera was named American League Comeback Player of the Year after posting a 6-2 win-loss record to go with 44 saves and a 2.11 ERA. The Panamanian national also was named the Marvin Miller Man of the Year “for excellence on and off the field.” The Marvin Miller Award is named after the founding executive director of the Baseball Player’s Association.
Rivera, who holds baseball’s all-time saves record with 652 career saves, missed much of the 2012 season after tearing up his knee while shagging fly balls at centerfield at Kansas City. That year was supposed to be his last but the classy pitcher opted to go out on his terms while giving New York a much needed lift in what was a nightmarish season where almost ever player on the roster was injured at one point in time.
Those two awards will make an nifty addition to the Most Valuable Player Award he took home following the American League’s 3-0 win over the National League during last season’s All-Star Game that was held at Citifield, the home field of the crosstown rivals, the New York Mets.
Mo is the second Yankee to win the Comeback Player Award. In 2005, Jason Giambi was the co-inaugural winner along with the NL’s Ken Griffey Jr.
Giambi suffered through a subpar 2003 and 2004 season that was marked by his being diagnosed with a benign tumor that sent him to the disabled list. In the middle of the 2005 season, Giambi found his groove once more as he finished the season with a hot bat.
When was the last time a retiring player was feted with a farewell tour? I could be wrong but the one I remember is the Baltimore Orioles Cal Ripken. After a prolonged strike that put off baseball fans, Ripken’s pursuit off Lou Gehrig’s Ironman record that lasted 56 year and spanned 2, 130 games, was followed by almost the entire United States. His willingness to work hard and play hard despite an assortment of injuries captivated fans. The crowds soon came back.
Rivera has been that way. He carried himself with dignity and pitched like a gentleman. He never got into any controversy in what is surely a Hall-of-Fame career. He never taunted opponents and simply pitched earning the respect of fans and foes alike. The manner is which he was celebrated in every ballpark this past season is testament to his class as a human being and an athlete.
To paraphrase Gehrig on his retirement day, I consider myself lucky to have watched Rivera both in Yankee Stadium and on television. I don’t have too many Yankee jerseys – Derek Jeter and Paul O’Neill are the other two. The third one is Mariano Rivera's.